Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Episode Fifteen: Making Ginger Beer

When I was young my Aunty made ginger beer with my cousins and I was always jealous of the fact that they got to do that and that they got to reap the fruits of their labour. So, inspired by those exploding bottles, I decided to make my own ginger beer with my own children.

Using a recipe I found in a magazine we got to work: On the first day we started our bug using water, sugar, yeast and ground ginger. Then, every day we added to our bug. Each day for a week the boys took turns putting in the sugar and the ginger. It got to the point where first thing in the morning my youngest boy would wake me up by saying "Dad, we need to feed the bug!". It was exciting stuff.

After a week the bug was looking pretty settled and smelt like real ginger beer so it was time to create our brew. Using a large pot we poured in some water, a heap of sugar, some lemon juice, cream of tartar and our bug. Each of us took turns to add the ingredients. Even my baby girl got to stir the potion.

Once it was all mixed we filled out bottles. After a warning from Dee and a friendly caution from one of the contractors who was painting our house, we decided to use a mixture of glass and plastic bottles. Apparently the bottles are liable to explode so they were all put into a big black rubbish bag, tied up and put in the garden shed. Hopefully if the pressure gets too great and they do explode, the theory is that all of the mess will stay contained within the bag. Fingers crossed.

Although I wanted to rewrite my childhood and finally get my own experience of brewing ginger beer - there were also some great lessons for the kids in this activity. The slow process of feeding the bug can't be rushed so we learnt patience. We all took turns adding to the bug and adding the ingredients to the final mixture so we learnt about sharing the load. Finally, we will have some sweet homemade ginger beer to drink and to give away to our friends so we learn the value of hard work and patience.

We couldn't resist having a little sip to see how it tasted before we bottled it. We're currently on to our first week of fermenting with one more to go. Once it's time to do the taste test, I'll be sure to post the results. In the mean time, here is the recipe should you want to give it a crack:

Ginger Beer Recipe

Warm water
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp raw sugar
2 tsp ground ginger

This here is your bug. Fill a large jar (hipster points for Mason jars) three quarters full with warm water. Add the rest of the ingredients then cover loosely. Don't tighten the lid or who knows what will happen! Then, every day after that for a week add 1 tsp raw sugar and 1 tsp ground ginger. Once a week is up, you're set.

3 cups raw sugar
2 tsp cream of tartar
1L boiling water
5L cold water
2 lemons worth of juice

This is your mixture. In a large pot or bucket add the sugar and the cream of tartar then pour the boiling water in there (might be a good idea to do this yourself). Give that a bit of a stir so that all of the sugar is dissolved. Once you've done that, pour in the cold water and your bug (but DON'T add the sludgey stuff from the bottom). Give that a short stir then throw in your lemon juice. Give it a good stir and then pour into your bottles. They say to store your bottles in a cool, dark place. Apparently these bottles can explode from the awesomeness of ginger beer so make sure wherever you are storing it, you're not too attached to or it's at least cleanable. I just chucked ours in the shed to avoid all that hassle.

With your left over sludge you have two choices: chuck it out, or, start again. If you want to start again, fill the jar to the top with water then tip out half (or give to a friend to make their own!) then fill again to three quarters with warm water and away you go.

Have fun!


  1. Totally up for some taste testing. This is definitely on my list of things to do with the kids.

    1. It's so easy! Well, so far.

      Come over and try some. I hear Saturday's open day is going to be thirsty work ;)